I have to admit that it’s been a while since I was really excited by a new vendor at the Leucadia Farmers Market.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a highlight of my week and an essential part of my Sunday routine. I still have my go-to purchases of Green Drink and a bunch of kale from the Morning Star Ranch folks, maybe an amazing baguette from either Prager Brothers or Le Rendezvous, and on a special occasion, a wood-fired pizza from John at Bottaro.
That was until recently when I meandered in and the first thing I noticed was a new vendor called The Pastrami Stand. Holy mother of deli goodness, I proclaimed! This was something completely different and near and dear to my history of having very solid delis surrounding me growing up in metro Detroit and during my time in Chicago.
As I walked closer, I noticed not only several varieties of pastrami sandwiches, but a Chicago-style hot dog, a chili dog and matzo ball soup. I was beside myself with excitement as I began to profess my appreciation to owner Howard Solomon for providing some of my favorite deli delights at a location that I would have never expected to see them.
Turns out there are a lot more folks like me in the area who are craving classic, simple versions of deli sandwich classics.
By the way, Howard is an Illinois native who spent his early professional years in Chicago and had a career in hospitality, so his deli culinary knowledge is legit. He sources most of his product and ingredients from Chicago and Los Angeles from wholesale purveyors who sell to delis all over the country.
Needless to say, you are not going to find him shopping in Smart & Final for his ingredients. Much more on Howard’s story and in the radio version of LTP this week at www.lick-the-plate.com.
OK, back to the star of this column, which is basically everything on the menu at The Pastrami Stand. On my discovery visit, I was not fully prepared for the full pastrami on rye experience, so I went with the Chicago-style hot dog. This was a perfect all-beef Vienna hot dog with all the Chicago-style toppings perfectly arranged on an S. Rosen’s poppy seed roll, which makes all the difference.
It was a beautiful hot dog experience and took me right back to my time spent in the Windy City. Howard said this dog was a special but I’m really hoping he makes it a fixture on the menu. I also shared a container of matzo ball soup made with a recipe passed down for generations. The matzo balls were light and fluffy, and the soup had that healing effect that only a superb chicken soup can produce.
The seed had been planted and I made special plans the following week to go for the full-on house favorite, the #18. It’s a classic New York-style pastrami sandwich, shaved thin and piled high on spectacular rye bread with yellow mustard. The pastrami almost melts in your mouth, and the bread has a crunchy crust and is super soft and just perfect for this sandwich experience, with a splendid pickle on the side.
Nothing fancy or chef-driven here. This, my friends, is sandwich perfection. Simple, classic and freaking amazing. My special plans included a smoothie for breakfast, a solid surf and a 1 p.m. date with this beauty, followed by a Sunday nap on the sofa.
Oh yeah, my plan also called for me eating just half of it and saving the rest for later. After my first bite, that plan quickly went out the window. This was meant to be consumed warm and on the spot.
I also noticed several farmers market patrons walking by with their healthy creations in hand, gazing lustfully at my plate of meat piled high on rye bread. I just grunted and nodded my approval, no words needed.
My next trip back is already planned, and it will include the Pastrami Dip, which is a hot, juicy, smoked pastrami served on a soft roll with either just the top half dipped in the house au jus, a la Philippe’s French Dipped Sandwich in Los Angeles of which I described in detail in a previous column, or a full dip … going all Chicago Italian Beef style. My hunch is that I will go with the full dip upon my return visit.
Also on my list are their hot dog offerings that include a chili-and-cheese dog and a pastrami dog. I should note that the #18 is also offered as a half sandwich, and you can take home this amazing pastrami in bulk.
I should also note that I had to do some research to refresh myself on the difference between corned beef and pastrami and I’m glad I did, as it is distinct — with pastrami, and its razor-thin capabilities being my favorite on a sandwich. In the interest of word count, check out this link from Sy Ginsberg in Detroit as it’s very educational on the topic. https://www.syginsberg.com/common-deli-terms/
Howard is all over San Diego with his Pastrami Stand, including farmers markets, music festivals and pop-ups at breweries. Do yourself a favor and find him to experience what a simple, yet perfect deli sandwich is like.